What Happened to My American Dream?

y Hannah Ashkenazi (Barnard College Graduate)

It was around 8am in Denmark when the AP called the race for Donald Trump. I sat in my bed frozen, feeling like I was in an alternate reality. Carsten Jensen, a Danish social theorist, named November 8,2016 as objectively the worst day of his life. For me, it was my loneliest. It was not just that a man who many view as racist, misogynistic, and prejudiced was elected president, but that my idea of America fundamentally changed. 

Like many young girls, I was taught that girls can do anything. Women’s equality for me was never a question, never something I thought I would have to fight for. I went to Barnard College, one of the foremost women’s colleges in America, because of my belief in the equality of women’s minds, the inviolable right to their bodies, and a vision of gender equality that crumbled on Tuesday. After four years of a university that cultivated women’s leadership and three years of working on the ground in sexual violence prevention, perhaps I made a mistake. Perhaps I thought that we, as a society, were further than we were, that my vision of America as a place where I would have the same respect as my male counterparts was simply a delusion. 

What is my place in this new America—or the America that has always been but has been unrealized by we who were sheltered in our ivory towers? One in which the glass ceilings we thought would be shattered were yet again be deemed impermeable. The images in the media since Tuesday-of visceral emotions on the faces of people across America-are based on this, are based on the crumbling of our idea of America.  As young women, we put our hopes, dreams, and identities into this country. Into the idea that America would give us equality—real equality. That our voice, whether in the classroom, boardroom, or our own relationship with our partner, would be just as valid as a man’s. And on Tuesday, the American people elected a man who has bragged about touching women without their consent, rated women as numbers, and mocked people with physical disabilities. A man and a constituency who showed us that might makes right, that fear is more powerful than hope have made me question the very idea of my country.  The way forward is murky, because we are still picking up the pieces of our fragmented vision of America; and also our ideas of ourselves. I never thought women’s equality was a question in this country, not until now.